Contact: Beth Stone
BROCKTON – Massachusetts’ highest court has affirmed the convictions of a man who committed a series of break-ins while on a GPS monitoring bracelet and then challenged the use of the tracking device’s historical location records as evidence at trial, Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz announced today.
In July, 2016, Jamie B. Johnson, now 42, was convicted of two counts of breaking and entering in the daytime, one count of breaking and entering in the nighttime, two counts of larceny over $250, and one count of larceny of $250 or less for break-ins committed in Plymouth County. He was sentenced to serve 10-13 years in State Prison, to be followed by 3 years of Probation from and after.
In September, 2013, Johnson was arrested near the scene of a housebreak in the Randolph. At the time of his arrest, Johnson was in possession of a pair of gloves and a flashlight. Randolph police became aware that Johnson had previously been outfitted with a GPS monitoring device issued by the Quincy District Court Probation Department and contacted Marshfield police. As part of its investigation into local break-ins, a Marshfield Police detective utilized GPS technology and was able to determine that Johnson was at the scene of 10 housebreaks in the towns of Marshfield, Hanson and Pembroke between May and September, 2012. The GPS records documented that Johnson traveled in a manner consistent with casing the homes and being present at the homes at the times of the alleged break-ins. Johnson was charged with breaking into five homes in Hanson, three homes in Marshfield and two homes in Pembroke. In total from the homes he stole cash, jewelry, an Ipod, a laptop computer and three handguns. The various break-ins occurred while the victims were away on vacation or at work.
Johnson filed a Motion to Suppress Warrantless Seizure of GPS Evidence. He argued that the Commonwealth could not access and review the GPS historical location data collected without a warrant because this was an unreasonable search under both the Federal and Massachusetts Constitutions.
Today, the SJC issued their decision which said that while the original imposition of GPS monitoring as a condition of Johnson’s probation was a search, it was reasonable in light of his extensive criminal history and his willingness to re-offend while on probation. The SJC also held that once the GPS device was attached to Johnson, he did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in data targeted by the police to determine where he was at the times and in the locations of suspected crimes that occurred during his probationary period. Additionally, the SJC held that the evidence introduced at the jury-waived trial was sufficient to support the judge’s finding, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the crimes for which he was convicted. Justice Lenk wrote the only dissent.
“We are pleased with the SJC’s decision,” DA Cruz said. “Mr. Johnson pleaded with a district court judge to be placed on GPS monitoring in lieu of being sent to jail on a violation, and then argued that the GPS device would prove he was not in violation of any future orders. It was disingenuous for him to claim that he didn’t realize he would be monitored during the subject time.”
Assistant District Attorney Gail McKenna handled the case before the SJC and Assistant District Attorney Brian Fahy prosecuted the case at trial.